Matt C. Abbott
April 6, 2015
Rolling Stone and morality in journalism
By Matt C. Abbott

(A version of this column originally appeared at the American Thinker blog.)

Rolling Stone magazine's now-discredited UVA rape story was a failure on a number of journalistic levels. It was such a failure that one would think some heads will roll, so to speak.

Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case.

From The New York Times:
    In an interview discussing Columbia's findings, Jann S. Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone, acknowledged the piece's flaws but said that it represented an isolated and unusual episode and that [Sabrina Rubin Erdely] would continue to write for the magazine. The problems with the article started with its source, Mr. Wenner said. He described her as 'a really expert fabulist storyteller' who managed to manipulate the magazine's journalism process. When asked to clarify, he said that he was not trying to blame Jackie, 'but obviously there is something here that is untruthful, and something sits at her doorstep'.....

    Mr. Wenner said Will Dana, the magazine's managing editor, and the editor of the article, Sean Woods, would keep their jobs.

    In an interview, Mr. Dana said he had reached many of the same conclusions as the Columbia report in his own efforts to examine the article, but he disagreed with the report's assertion that the magazine had staked its reputation on the word of one source. 'I think if you take a step back, our reputation rests on a lot more than this one story,' he said.
Gosh, I wonder if Rolling Stone will at least suspend those involved. I suppose that will be an "internal matter."

But, as of now, the offending parties will continue to get paid presumably good money to publish even more nonsense in an attempt to advance the libertine left's social agenda. They'll likely have to do a little more fact-checking, though.

Also, it looks like Rolling Stone will be facing legal action from the fraternity that was defamed in the story. (Source)



Although I'm not paid by any of the news and commentary websites to which I contribute articles – actually, I do more editing than writing – I still consider Catholic journalism my current vocation.

I think it's most accurate to refer to myself as a Catholic commentator, since I'm always writing from a (biased) Catholic perspective. I don't pretend to be an objective reporter – which, in my opinion, doesn't exist anyway. All reporters are biased in some fashion; it's just that mainstream media outlets want their reporters to give a pretense of objectivity.

Most of the time, it fails.

I don't claim to be perfect. There have been times when I've written commentaries and even "objective" articles that I later regretted. When writing about topics and situations that have reputations on the line, it's something I have to take very seriously.

There have been occasions when I wasn't mathematically certain that something occurred, but I was morally certain, so I went ahead and wrote about it.

From a Catholic perspective, I think moral certainty is sufficient for publicizing at least some situations that can be deemed sensitive. However, I must also take the following into account.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2477:
    Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

    - of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

    - of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

    - of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
All of this is very important to me, and it should be important to non-Catholic commentators as well.

© Matt C. Abbott

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback from readers. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails – complete with email addresses – that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if those emails are marked confidential. Also, please be aware that RenewAmerica is not my website; RA's president and editor is Stephen Stone, who can be reached here. I'm just one of RA's columnists, for which I'm very grateful. I don't speak for the other RA columnists, so please don't email me to complain about what someone else has written. Thank you and God bless!)

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